My 7 Month 7K Mile RV Trip West - Winter 2019-2020

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Neal

Staff member
RVF Administrator
Joined
Jul 27, 2019
Messages
6,341
Location
Midlothian, VA
RV Year
2017
RV Make
Newmar
RV Model
Ventana 4037
RV Length
40' 10"
TOW/TOAD
2017 Chevy Colorado
Fulltimer
No
This past winter was my longest RV trip yet starting September 1st and ending a little earlier than planned at the beginning of April as my April 15th Freightliner service appointment was postponed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. I wanted to share the story of this RV trip to share the RV Lifestyle and what it's like to be on the road for this amount of time as a non fulltimer. Total miles for this trip was 7K!!

When I got my RV, a 2017 Newmar Ventana 4037, 40ft diesel pusher motorhome in June of 2017 one of my goals was to revisit some of my Air Force bases and retrace some of my air force footsteps. This trip was a threefold endeavor from doing just that, then attending the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, and then tour all of Arizona as I've always thought about moving there so now is a good opportunity to give it a good look around and also see some parts of AZ as a tourist as well.

I got my coach out of storage in preparation for a 1 September departure which required onloading a lot of stuff for my business, 3D printing, both hot and cold seasons, and of course "that damn kayak" as it's called now. There is so much to cover I hope I can remember it all as the 7 months on the road was packed with so much including fixes and mods I want to share. The trip started off with a bang, well it hadn't started yet with my turn for the 2019 pandemic of Kwikee step failures as so many people had in 2019! I spent hours figuring out how to get mine to extend so I could get the spare motor I had on hand installed. It got done and that fixed the problem (another spare motor ordered for the spares kit) and off I went. Of course the refer is packed as if I'm never leaving the coach until I return, I don't know why I always do this! There is always a Walmart near every CG it seems!

My travels started by first visiting my best friend from college in Nashville and also getting to see Nashville. I attended the Grand Ole Opry and also toured downtown which was a great experience. It was hot at this time, I stayed at the KOA which was near the Grand Ole Opry making that easy. From there I continued my journey south headed to my first Air Force assignment in Alexandria LA what was then England Air Force Base. A big memory for me as this was my first assignment and as I showed up at the gate my squadron was deploying to Operation Desert Shield and the gate guard told me to go straight to my squadron which I did. Not thinking brand new A-10 pilot me would deploy, I did weeks later. I wondered what would happen to the town after we closed the base after Desert Storm as it was such as small town, depressingly small...well now it's huge! Obviously the military was not keeping that economy alive, when the military left it thrived! Wow!

I left Alexandria, LA westbound to arrive at NIRVC Lewisville, TX for my appointment for an interior/exterior detail for mid September. The roads there were absolutely unnerving, without GPS I would not be getting anywhere! Not happening! I enjoyed meeting Brett and Angie and getting to test drive a 2019 Essex, what a joy to drive! I also went to dinner in Plano which was absolutely gorgeous making me want to move there! The detailing wasn't so great sad to say, I just want to forget about that experience. I stayed at a nice campground just north and west of NIRVC, The Vineyards I think it's called and bought the most expensive steak dinner ever, but it was good! I checked to see if there was a home game in Dallas while I was in the area and there was and having never been to one I figured I should go. I booked the KOA in Arlington, TX and attended the Dallas vs. Miami game and seeing AT&T Stadium was a great experience, expensive, but a great opportunity. From there I went to Wichita Falls, TX where I went to pilot training (Sheppard Air Force Base - Euro Nato Joint Jet Pilot Training) and toured around the area also amazed at how huge Wichita Falls had become since I left in 1989. Leaving this location I got my first engine light ever, a yellow light but scary of course but FL said it was a DEF related hit, possibly an undervoltage and would likely clear after 4 engine runs. From here I was off to Amarillo, TX where I was leaving civilization for much smaller and remote areas so I was concerned so I decided to pack up and take the coach to the nearest FL service center which there is a nice one in Amarillo. Of course once I started the engine to take it into service the light cleared so I re-setup camp and had a sigh of relief.

Next stop was Angel Fire, NM. Some of us heading to the Balloon Fiesta would start rendezvousing and caravan together before and after the Balloon Fiesta which made it all that much better. I met @ARD at Angel Fire and she forced me to play Pickleball and Ping Pong, but I survived, okay, and had fun!! :) I got to meet @J&JD at Angel Fire as well, I didn't realize the elevation of that place so I'm glad I didn't pop my sleep number bed. It was sure windy there quite often but a great stop for a week and @ARD and I enjoyed going into TAOS as well. While at Angel Fire my first indication of two problems arose: 1) Noticed water under the back of the coach, 2) Noticed oil under the engine area. @ARD helped me replace my shower drain which was extremely not fun but I'm glad we were able to fix that. I had wondered where that water was coming from soaking my left rear basement for several months but thought it was a leak from exterior after Newmar's service in June of 2018.

@ARD and I caravaned to Santa Fe Skies RV resort where we met up with quite a few more people as I had arranged this as a rendezvous point prior to the Balloon Fiesta. It was great meeting @NWIP and Lisa in person, @Buly and @DorisA, @Richpatty, @10 fan, and several others as we had a nice meet and greet prior to heading south to the Newmar Kountry Klub event at the Balloon Fiesta. The food in Santa Fe was amazing, we all had a great time eating out together, what a great experience and super great people!

Off we went to Albuquerque and experienced the Balloon Fiesta which was a bucket list event, so gorgeous. We did have a day weathered out, it was crazy cold and super early rises, but great food and a great event with amazing people. I had a little secret I hadn't share with anyone but got a phone call while @ARD and I were chasing balloons that my future fuzzball was born which I was expecting to happen on 10/8 so I shared the Top Secret info with @ARD but figured I'd keep it at that as I wasn't sure I was really ready for this and was still wondering if I would go through with it when the time came to pick up this bundle of teeth! @ARD and I both shared birthdays during the balloon fiesta which was nice, I have a min requirement of sugar required for each day so that helped with my diet! @Buly's microwave died so I told him I'd be happy to help install a GE Advantium if you can get one and I was successful in twisting both of @ARD's arms for her to get one too. @ARD and I were going to continue on to Ruidoso Motorcoach Resort and as @Buly couldn't source a microwave in ABQ in time they were both able to get Home Depot to deliver to us while in Ruidoso. What a gorgeous that campground was and we got the microwave's installed as well while there. Low and behold @ARD's was defective so it was a good thing she was making a left u-turn to Newmar and Spartan for services and I was taking a 90 right for Arizona.

My trip continued with some amazing State Parks enroute through southern New Mexico and Arizona where I got to enjoy my new telescope I hauled along for the trip out west to enjoy dark skies. I had the barker tank along for the ride which was needed for my two week stays at several SP's including eastern Phoenix. Using the barker tank for the first time was met with my usual CG entertainment, fortunately no one nearby. Connecting a stinky slinky requires a special fitting, using the sani-con is a great way to make a real mess, finally sani-con in bypass mode did the trick. Back to the travels...as I used to be stationed in Tucson I've been wanting to go back there so two weeks there was amazing much less after being in some very remote SP's it was nice to be in civilization again. Tucson has to be my fav part of AZ after seeing all I saw. While in Tucson I went to Cummins to have them look into the oil drip situation which was a head gasket needing replacing. It was interesting boondocking on the street next to Cummins for my 6 AM show in the bad part of Tucson. No fun! While in Tucson I performed another mod which was installing a Dometic CF-80 cooler, building wooden shelves and mounting in the basements to optimize storage since the Dometic cooler took a good chunk of basement away. All worked out great, pleased with the results and it was fun to have some tinkering to do. It's now mid-November and next stop is Phoenix (east end in the SP) and two weeks to see what Phoenix and surroundings areas are about for potential future residence. At this time it was planning for my flight back to VA for my mother's 80th birthday party and picking up Elli in Maryland at the breeder just prior for the grand reveal at the birthday party as all was working out timed perfectly.

After Phoenix I needed a place to essentially store my RV while I was back east so I went to Palm Creek where I was going in January as it was the ideal situation being near Phoenix airport, etc. @ARD set me up with the gang she knows there and I got to play more Pickleball and enjoy a few days there before I flew out for some big decisions, okay, one big decision, was I ready for another lab or did I want to continue to enjoy no walks, no fur, etc. etc. I flew to BWI and spent the night near the airport in terror, what should I do? The pics of the puppy weren't the best so I was concerned. I drove the breeder telling myself it's okay to say no, the deposit is no big deal, and even wanting to cancel this all along I decided to at least get to the door and see. It was love at first sight, everything I wanted, off we went for the 3 hour drive to Richmond, VA where I had to hide out in a hotel a few days until the birthday party. All went well and a few days later we flew back to AZ, introduced Elli to the Palm Creek gang and headed north to explore Arizona now mid-December.

If there is ever a time NOT to go to northern AZ it is December! Flagstaff was forecasting 2 FEET of snow but I wasn't ready to cancel the travel plans just yet. Off to Sedona I went, wow what a gorgeous place but cold and I unfortunately got sick (wondering if it was the virus!) and was sick for a month. From Sedona I trecked to Lake Powell for New Years where I was mostly the only person in the CG for most of my week there other than transients from time to time. Sooo cold, CG water froze which has never happened there according to them. Did the local things to do such as seeing upper and lower antelope canyon. From here it was off to the Grand Canyon where they had snow and ice - yaye, that was fun! Gorgeous but scary driving the MH in those conditions. Next was Flagstaff where it was all of 7-10 degrees at night - sooo cold, and some snow on the ground but the weather held out. The KOA there was tight, not so great but worked for my needs.

After Flagstaff I went to the Quartzsite Newmar Kountry Klub rally which was interesting. I decided to not really participate in much of the event but instead just enjoy the serenity of Quartzsite and boondocking and taking care of this tiny critter I've been enjoying. It was the time we all waited for to test out solar which I was sort of let down with, moral is a low sun angle that time of the year is not anywhere near ideal for solar. Some gen time was needed as the solar even tilted was insufficient to charge the batteries each day. The Balloon Fiesta was another boondocking event to test out the solar, all went well there until I decided to tilt the panels and then never caught back up. The orientation of our coaches was not ideal for solar with a north orientation so you had sun right, aft, then left and somewhat low angle as well. @Richpatty kept his panels flat and did just fine, once I tilted which was a bad idea I could never catch up again. A great lesson in solar and seeing the need for better batteries to really harness the energy properly.

After Quartzsite, which I recommend all do if you can someday, a neat boondocking opportunity that is safe and with good views, I was off for my extended stay at Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort in Casa Grande, AZ. At this point I resigned to the fact AZ was not for me, Tucson would be an option, a better look at the Phoenix suburbs but now it's time to check out Colorado and Montana. AZ is out. I originally reserved 1 month to be at Casa Grande but extended a month when I was there in December which I was concerned I may regret, I've never stayed in one place that long. As a former tennis player I really took to Pickleball other than a bum knee which became excruciating (Doctor appointment April 27th so that situation is TBD). I got to play in two tournaments, took Gold in my class on the first one, didn't make it far on the second one but was fun. I ended up really enjoying staying put for two months and got really comfortable with the RV lifestyle. Most of the first half of the trip I was torn between RVing and just wanting to be home. I hate change so it's tough at times but I really got to liking the long time in the RV. It became very comfortable which was nice. While at Casa Grande my OASIS acted up again, another short, but good came from it learning that all along I likely had one electric element not participating so I never got good hot water performance from the electric burners without diesel burning in play. I also had the opportunity to redo, and properly do, my LED lighting power source so that was a good outcome for that. Palm Creek is a unique place, something about it makes productivity stop and that was hard when trying to run a business at the same time. I call it the bermuda triangle of RV life, I just don't get it. And as you typically don't leave "the rock" I ended up calling it Palmcatraz. Mostly as the eating out situation isn't that great, but if I go back next time I'll take my golf clubs (haven't played in 100 years) and also go do some shooting at the ranges just south. It was great to see @NWIP and wife when they came to PC and get them into Pickleball as well. Then the virus situation came and things got interesting and I had to make my way back east for the April 15th annual chassis service in Gaffney, SC. I extended a little longer but wanted to get back to camping and sightseeing so March 23rd I departed the rock. Enjoyed seeing Kerrville and several other CG's but the stay at home orders were kicking in, CG's shutting down, it was a mine field working my way back east.

In summary, 7 months, 7K miles, great times with great people, mods done, fixes done, and now adjusting to the home life again as I really miss the simple RV life where I had a routine all figured out and my simple little house on wheels works well for me with my office desk setup in the coach, simple lifestyle, it's all good. My intention on the way back would be to take the southern route and hit New Orleans for some good eating but that all got cancelled and I had to avoid LA due to their virus activity.

It's a lot of fun especially when single to RV with others at times. The pickleball was fun, and learning a lot from each other in RV living from little kitchen gadgets, patio furniture setups, etc. etc. Lots of great tidbits shared with one another. House breaking a puppy in an RV was interesting but successful, now I'm re-housebreaking her in the house sadly.

I hope others that venture into this lifestyle will also have the opportunity to take some significant journeys as well as this is what the RV lifestyle is all about. So much to see and great people to meet. When it came time to unload the coach it is amazing how much stuff you can put in a 40 foot motorhome! I can certainly see myself fulltiming someday, I do love my house and wish I could keep it and fulltime but one big thing of RV lifestyle for me is the simplicity so getting all of that "stuff" out of my life would be a relief. It's not for now for various reasons but potentially some day.

Until next journey (Glacier this fall) it's time to recharge and reminisce.

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Buly, Bill (NWIP), Lisa, Doris, Renee (ARD) - Santa Fe 2019
 

sheridany

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@Neal that is a terrific recap of your journey. Thanks for taking the time to write it and share.
 

VTPete

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Nice write up Neal-thanks. A-10 pilot? Wow. Share more about that one day.
 

AbdRahim

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Joined
Dec 25, 2019
Messages
1,444
Nice read Neal. Sick for one month oiy! That is one of my biggest concerns next to stuff breaking, getting sick, alone on the road. Dis you see a doctor?

Not sure how I would handle that. Perhaps let the campground host know I was ill so they keep an eye out in case I need medical care. Ugh!
 

J&JD

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Thanks for sharing @Neal. Always fun to follow fellow rvers trials, tribulations and puppy rearing?. We hope to catch up with you again in Polson this fall, Covid-19 willing.
 

RKins

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Thanks for sharing Neal! I did the same thing after each of my overseas trips to a bunch of followers.
 

FLSteve

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@Neal … thanks for posting. Enjoyed reading it.

FLSteve
 

Jabber Jaw

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Neal, Thanks for sharing....made for an interesting "read"!
 

Golfer Guy

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Nice write up Neil. I just wish we could have met up in Q. Maybe you will give it another go next year. We sure like Happy Trails in Surprise AZ. Lots of pickle ball here and so much other stuff to do. Keep posting your travels my friend.
 

Buly

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Thanks for the good memories Neal. We are booked at Polson 8/24-9/7 . Hope we see you there?
 

Kcmusa

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An A-10 pilot, I worked Gila bend gunnery range and scored for luke and DM. We loved to have visitors when the A-10 would strafe. People almost jumped off the tower.
 

Neal

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Messages
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Location
Midlothian, VA
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Newmar
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Ventana 4037
RV Length
40' 10"
TOW/TOAD
2017 Chevy Colorado
Fulltimer
No
I miss Gila bend. Best ranges!
 
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